Dr. Robert Blaine

Senior Executive and Director, Center for Leadership, Education, Advancement and Development

About the Program

The Center for Leadership, Education, Advancement and Development is the go-to place for city leaders seeking to improve outcomes for children and families. With expertise in early childhood success, education & expanded learning, promoting a culture of health, youth & young adult connections, and economic opportunity & financial empowerment, LEAD reaches cities of all sizes and brings together local leaders to develop strategies via technical assistance projects, peer learning networks, leadership academies, and Mayors’ Institutes.

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YEF 20th Anniversary

Over the course of its 20-year history, the Center for Leadership, Education, Advancement and Development at the National League of Cities has transformed how municipal leaders envision their roles in improving outcomes for all children, youth, and families in their communities. For residents to thrive, we need empowered local leaders who place the well-being of children, youth, and their families at the center focus of governance. The Center for Leadership, Education, Advancement and Development, current and former local officials and partners at the heart of this important work gathered for a kick-off of our 20-year celebration, reflection and re-commitment to our communities.

Program Initiatives

From seeding promising practices and innovative approaches to leading cross-sector initiatives, the Center for Leadership, Education, Advancement and Development supports local leaders in placing children and families at the forefront of decisions across a range of issues including education, public safety, early childhood, economy empowerment and community development.


Education and Expanded Learning

A skilled and educated workforce is increasingly vital to a community’s economic vitality. Even when city officials do not play a direct role in governing their school systems, there are numerous ways in which they can exercise leadership to support public schools, expand alternatives for students who struggle in traditional educational settings, and increase postsecondary success.


Youth & Young Adult Connections

NLC supports and informs city leaders and stakeholders interested in improving public safety and reforming the juvenile justice system. We also provide peer learning and support to the growing number of citywide programs reconnecting young people to school.


Early Childhood Success

Research shows a critical period of child development is birth to age 8, not just physiologically, but also cognitively, emotionally, and socially, setting the basis for future health and wellbeing. Local leaders are well positioned to champion the needs of young children and families and help ensure that every child enters school ready to learn, and ultimately reaches their full potential.


Health & Wellness

Local leaders play a pivotal role in the overall health and well-being of the cities, towns and villages they serve. With generous support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NLC leads an effort to educate, train and build the capacity of city leaders to address the social determinants of health and improve health outcomes where individuals live, learn, work and play.


Strong Southern Communities Initiative

The Strong Southern Communities Initiative (SSCI) provides practical support and guidance to municipal leaders in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, bringing together local elected officials from across the region to improve outcomes for children and families. SSCI assists in the development of tailored local action plans and connects local leaders to national experts and regional partners who turn these plans into action.